The Superversive From Japan: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

It’s been a while since I recommended a series for Superversive seekers, and once more I bring a series from the Gundam franchise to your attention. This is one of the “alternate continuity” series from the 1990s, one that hit big in the United States: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.

It is now remaster for HD, and the folks running the Gndam Official channel have made the entire series available for free to view in the hopes that you’ll head over to Amazon and buy the Blu-Ray disc collections.

This is one of the Superversive entries in the franchise, as the pretty boys who form the core of the cast are expressly out to liberate the world from a corrupt and oppressive world-state. What they do, and how they do it, vary greatly. Their opposition isn’t stupid or hamstrung, and the series’ antagonist is himself motivated by high ideals that contrast well against the heroes’ own. For a show aimed at boys entering adolescence (just a few year younger than the heroes), that’s some heavy storytelling.

You get a lot of philosophical conflict over the morality of government, of artificial intelligence, of the centralization of power and authority into an elite vs. decentralization into autonomous communities, and of the possession of warfighting capabilites by private individuals. (Alas, it also has one of the worst Straw Pacifist tropes in world fiction, but they can’t all be perfect.)

If your household has youths of roughly that age, or a little older, this is a perfect series to use to get them talking about things that they need to handle as adults- this is a story that is timely despite being over 20 year old, featuring concerns that they will have to deal with sooner than later.

And in the end, despite significant missteps, it is an overall Superversive series. Recommended.

Signal Boost: The PulpRev Sampler

PulpRev released its first fiction anthology late last week: The PulpRev Sampler. This collection has old hands, rising starts, and (like me) totally new authors each putting down something that captures the spitir of the old pulps and brings it forth to an audience hungry–starving–for the quality entertainment of the old days. As no few contributors (including myself) are also Superversive supporters, you that also seek the Superversive will find it here.

I’ve posted here at length, many times, how the Superversive is still out there in popular culture- just not the current Western establishment. As the Superversive and the Pulp Revolution share many common elements as well as participants, you should expect the stories in this collection to aspire to (if not achieve) the Superversive more often than not. If you want to change the culture, you have to get in the arena and fight for it; this is one such entry, and all of us are wanting to make the most of it.

And it’s a whopping 99 cents. Your risk is nothing but one less thing on the Dollar Menu. Just chick through the image link above, make that purchase, and enjoy all of the stories to your heart’s content. Then–please–leave a review and spread the word. Even the old hands who were so gracious as to contribute something could always use a hand in getting the word out, and those of us still ill-known, unknown, or (like me) totally new need that even more. You won’t be disappointed. Give the Sampler a go today.

Hacker Releases Secret NSA Documents

International black hat hacker, Drop Bear, released this transcript from the Secret NSA Files, dated circa October 2017

 

“Mr. President.” The young marine in dress blues handed the plainly wrapped package stamped TOP SECRET in red to the man sitting on the other side of the Resolute desk.

President trump weighed it with his hands. “Hmm. It’s gotta be a book. I know it is. It’s the size and shape of one. It’s got to be a book.” President Trump looked from the package to the man standing on the other side of his desk. “Thank you. You may go.”

The marine pivoted to leave.

“Wait. Do you smoke cigars?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Have Madeline get you one of those cigars that Castro sent. You’ve gotta try one. They are great.”

The door closed, leaving Trump alone with the nondescript package. He set it down and stared at it for several long minutes before opening it.

“I knew it.” He picked up the folded piece of paper tucked into the front cover of the paperback.

Mr. President,

One of my agents discovered this hiding in an off shore computer in Australia. We are certain that it has to do with that incident back in the 1980s. Those two were right about a lot of things. My agents suspect that this book holds the key to the future.”

M. Rogers

“Preston and Logan. Great guys. Really great guys. Excellent guys. A bit strange, though.” Trump set the letter down and picked up the book.

He buzzed his secretary. “Hold all of my calls, please.” Then, spent the rest of the afternoon engrossed in the mysterious book he’d received.

“Mr. President, Vice President Pence is on the line.” Madeline’s voice came across the speaker.

Trump picked up the handset. “Mike, I had a vision yesterday that came in the form of book.” He held up the book, MAGA 2020 & Beyond, staring at it while he talked. “We’re going into space. You have to go out and announce it. It’s gotta be you. Madeline has me in meetings all day. It’s gotta be you. You’ll do great. You will. It’ll be great.”

Find out what the NSA and Trump know, pre-order your copy today.

PRE-ORDER

The Superversive in Games: Final Fantasy XV and the Power of Brotherhood

Final Fantasy XV took a decade to get to market. Its time in Development Hell is legendary, even for a business notorious for long delays and other production problems. When it arrived this year, the hype train had built up quite a bit of steam and its demo had shown some serious promise of both fun gameplay and a story that you will invest in. I won’t be talking gameplay here; that’s for another venue. Here, I’m talking story.

Is the story in this game good, as it “well-done”? Yes, to the point where some players who really ought to know better actually miss its key points due to their subtlety. I won’t name the guilty here, but one woman who finished the game had a ranting melt-down during her livestream while the credits rolled because she couldn’t get why the hero and his companions were so choked up at the end.

It’s Superversive because of two elements: the story, brick-to-face in its obviousness, is about sustaining and rebuilding the fundamental cultural institutions against a wicked enemy bent on their destruction. Your character is the crown prince, and his story involves undergoing the changes necessary to attain the maturity that a true and faithful king must possess to successfully fulfill his duty to his people and country. His companions are life-long friends, with him through thick and thin, even unto the end of all things.

The game’s theme features the power, strength, and necessity of brotherhood in the development of boys into men- such that the cultivation of virtue (without which overcoming the villain is impossible, thematically) is difficult, if not impossible, without it. If I recommend anything, it’s for fathers to play this game with their sons, because there’s something so strongly inclined to the male experience that it would be a waste to not take the opportunity to use this story to show what being a man is about- and that you should not do it alone.

Superversive? ABSOLUTELY! (The gameplay is solid for the franchise, so don’t worry there.) And once you hear Florence Welch sing “Stand By Me” at the end, you will never forget it. Best use of licensed music in a videogame this year, by far, and once you get to the end you will understand why. Recommended. Totally.

The Superversive from the East: Giant Robo – The Animation

Giant Robo is, as the linked article states, both one of the oldest of Japan’s comic franchises and the source of one of the best original animation series in the last 30 years. As such there’s some familiar issues that any franchise faces, starting with multiple continuities that often drastically reshape the premise into something very different from other versions. That’s why I’m specifying the OVA series: “The Animation”.

The reason for this specific incarnation’s enduring appeal is that this story is one of the most boldly Superversive stories to come out of Japan. Just take a good look at the trailer below:

That’s all you need to know, right there. The details that really deliver on the story’s promise aren’t in the trailer, but you will see that every element gets used–and used well–to tell a tale that uplifts the audience, inspires them to face great fears with courage, and press on even when you think you’re done for. That boy, Daisaku, is your protagonist and he gets put through the ringer over the course of this short series, but he does make it happen at the end–albeit with help (and a Pellenor Fields moment that is ridiculous, awesome, and (by that point) makes logical sense).

And it is thoroughly entertaining at all levels. The music is fantastic, the aesthetics are brilliant, and the production team did your Avengers or Justice League style of “heroes band together to stop a world-wide doom” story better than Marvel or DC have to date, in any medium. Daisaku’s the plunky youth you want to cheer for, Big Fire’s villains range from love-to-hate to completely despicable, and the other Experts of Justice may be rough around the edges but they are still heroes.

And, as for the necessity of virtue, the plot centers around two virtue-related matters: the origin of the Shizuma Drive, and the truth about the disaster that nearly derailed its introduction. Big errors got made, and everything about this story is a logical consequence of those errors, but there is no fixing it without fixing those errors- and that final bit shows this story’s value as a Superversive work.

The commercial availability of this animation isn’t what it once was, but you can get it at Amazon in a boxed set on DVD at a reasonable (for commercial anime) price. It’s not a long series: just under 6 hours, total. Agent Carter‘s first season ran longer. Recommended highly!

The Superversive from the East: Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross

Japan has several long-running science-fiction franchises, but few are truly global in reach. Mobile Suit Gundam is one. Space Battleship Yamato is another. Both got their start in 1979, but the third part of that era’s triumverate came in 1982: Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross, what many in North America may (unfortunately) know better as the most popular part of Robotech.

I won’t go into the details of what makes the original Macross great–you can read the TV Tropes article for that–so I’ll skip straight to why I’m marking this out as a Superversive work. First, and foremost, this is series is a counter-balance to the downbeat stories that the Gundam franchise often did; this was the era was “Kill ‘Em All” Tomino’s penchant for nihilism, despair, and audience-unfriendly narrative decisions were at their worst. While tragedy and loss are present in Macross, they are Things To Overcome and not You Suck Forever elements.

The story, despite the massive warfare going on, ends on a hopeful note that’s borne out before the credits roll for the final time and expanded upon in the many franchise expansions ever since. Brotherhood is rewarded, faith in things greater than oneself key to victory, beauty and culture are explicit superpowers (but that is not enough; Right Needs Might), and real love is not narcissistic delusion.

The transformable fighters and the Space Opera story are what many remember, but what gives Macross its heart is much like what we see with Gurren Lagann: an earnest, relatable hero who struggles to do what is right while doing what is necessary, overcoming his losses by keeping faith with his people (which is also difficult at times for him to do), and in time he becomes a leader in his own right. Maturity, marriage, and the embrace of responsibility are shown to benefit him and make him into the hero he saw in his big brother.

This theme persists across the series: those who embrace the elements necessary to build up a healthy culture with concern for the future are those that succeed, whereas those that embrace nihilism and succumb to despair are those that fail. Not only does this persist throughout the series, it persists throughout the franchise.

While not perfect, Macross is a beloved classic for good reasons- and if “Superversive” was a part of the vocabulary of the culture then, you would’ve seen it used prominently. Recommended.

Hard Sci-fi Made Me Cry

Tired of the remakes, the reboots, the “let’s see how much more blood we can squeeze out of this turnip” output of today’s Hollywood? I think you’ll find Passengers a refreshing change.

If like me, you didn’t rush out to see it in the theatre, it might’ve been because of blurbs like this one from IMDB: “A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.”

Sounds like a snore, doesn’t it?

It is rated PG-13, just under two hours long, and tagged as adventure, drama, and romance. What it is, however, is a story about love, redemption, and forgiveness. It’s about making the best of life, even when things don’t go as planned. It’s about the pioneering spirit, about a positive future, about what a man and a woman can achieve together.

“But wait, you said this is hard sci-fi.”

Yes, I did. And I stand by it. It’s science fiction because of the setting, a spaceship traveling between the stars. It’s hard sci-fi because it’s closer to 2001: A Space Odyssey in that it’s an extrapolation of current knowledge, than to the space-fantasy cum turnip known as Star Wars.

But what this movie actually is, is a great example of using science/setting as a trope, a literary device for delivering a character-driven story. The science is not the point of the story, but there is enough verisimilitude that it has a real feel to it (this comes from someone who can get really picky about the scientific details). Continue reading